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Police: Stabbing Attack in Finland, Several Injuries; Manhunt Intensifies for Van Driver in Deadly Attack; Tillerson: One American Killed in Barcelona Terror Attack. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired August 18, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone, John Berman here. We are following breaking news this morning in Finland. Finland, police say several people have been stabbed in the City of Turku. You can see it on the map now. And now, officials are urging people to stay away from the downtown area. We are told the suspect has been shot in the leg. We are also told now the Finnish authorities are putting up new securities and telling airports and train stations to be on the ready.
This comes 24 hours after a deadly day in Spain. Two attacks there, 14 people dead, more than 100 injured, a manhunt underway for the driver of a van who plowed into a crowd, more on that coming up as we are getting new developments, but first, stunning new backlash against the president after his Charlottesville response. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, minutes ago, with a scathing post on Facebook, writing, the president has made racists rejoice and minorities weak, that from Mitt Romney. And this comes, just a short time after the mother of the woman killed in Charlottesville made it clear to the president, I do not want to even talk to you. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN ROBERTS, HOST, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": We understand that President Trump has reached out. Have you talked to him directly yet?
SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: I have not. And now I will not. At first, I just missed his calls. The first call, it looked like actually came during the funeral. I didn't even see that message. There were three more frantic messages from press secretaries throughout the day. And I didn't know why. That would have been on Wednesday.
And I was home recovering from the exhaustion of the funeral and so I thought, well, I'll get to them later. And then I had more meetings to establish her foundation. So I hadn't really watched the news until last night.
And I'm not talking to the president now. I'm sorry. After what he said about my child and it's not that I saw somebody else's tweet about him. I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like Miss Heyer with the KKK and the white supremacists.
ROBERTS: And that is where you are right now because after his statement, after he read his statement on Monday, you thanked him. But now you have had a chance to hear his remarks from Tuesday. And that has changed your position as far as the president's concerned and wanting to hear from him?
BRO: Absolutely. You can't wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying I'm sorry.
ROBERTS: Is there something -
BRO: I'm not forgiving for that.
ROBERTS: Is there something though that you would want to say to the president?
BRO: Think before you speak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You can't wash this away by shaking my hand, pretty stunning words there from the mother of Heather Heyer.
CNN's Athena Jones, live in Bridgewater, New Jersey not far from the president's golf resort. Athena, any reaction yet to this from the White House?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT: Hi, John. No. Still no reaction to Susan Bro's words in that interview and no reaction to whether they did actually reach out several times to her. I've also asked about the Mitt Romney statement.
But let's talk about for a moment about Susan Bro. It is -- we can't stress enough how unusual it is to have someone whose child was killed in a tragedy, not want to speak to the president. And that is because she - as you heard her say she believes he doesn't think before he speaks. The problem is a lot of the president's critics say look, he does think before he speaks and he tweets.
We saw his true feelings on Saturday in that initial reaction to the Charlottesville violence when he blamed many sides and we saw it again in that unscripted - in those unscripted exchanges with reporters on Tuesday at Trump Tower. He says what he means. He means what he says. And now, we should believe him. But now, you are hearing or you're seeing a growing list of Republican voices calling on the president to speak up, to set the record straight if he truly does agree with those scripted comments on Monday where he condemned hate groups by name, neo-Nazi, the KKK and white supremacists.
[10:05:00] Let's read some more of what Governor Romney had to say on Facebook. Here's what he said. He said, "Whether he intended to or not, what he," the president, "communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric."
He goes on to say this. "This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country."
And John, another point that Romney makes in this post is that the allies of America are watching and that America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. John, as you know and we have been saying for the last several days, given past history, given the president's history, it doesn't seem likely that he is going to do what Governor Romney is calling on him to do, which is apologize here and set the record straight. John?
BERMAN: I don't think I remember an apology from the president of the United States.
Athena Jones, thank you very much for that.
Joining me now, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator, political anchor for "Spectrum News," David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst and Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential Historian.
Errol, I wanted to start with you. Mitt Romney's statement brings a lot of things together, all at once there. He says, what the president communicated and what we heard, what the mother of Heather Heyer heard was her daughter being equated with people who are marching alongside white supremacists saying Jew will not, you know, replace us. What we heard and then Mitt Romney said it will lead to the unraveling of our national fabric here, remarkable to hear from both these different avenues today.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. It's more, I think, phrased as a warning. I don't know if I'm quite as gloomy as Mitt Romney about this. Because in addition to the things that he wrote about people mourning and weeping, and so forth. There are people organizing. There are people stepping forward, whether it's corporate leaders, whether it's military leaders, whether it's people in the streets. People are reacting to this and they are taking the conversation. I think, what I hear Mitt Romney saying here, is he is urging the president to get back into a conversation that the rest of the country has sort of left him behind on.
BERMAN: But it's interesting because he heard Susan Bro, the mother say, that's what I heard with my own ears. Mitt Romney said, what people heard, no matter what you claim now, you are trying to say, what people heard was this sort of moral ambiguity.
LOUIS: Well, absolutely. Look, there's been this game that's been going on since the campaign and into the presidency now where the president throws out something crazy and expects other people to clean it up for him, to make it up for him. It's fine if he wants to ask the staff to do that. Increasingly, they are not able to do it, that's why he has gone through so many staff members. But for the rest of us, absolutely not our job to sort of bring him back into some kind of moral coherence after what he said. -- He's an adult. We have to take him seriously.
BERMAN: One person who seemed to hear the same things, that Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer heard and Mitt Romney heard. Well, Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a Republican from Tennessee, do we have the sound of Senator Corker talking about the president's ability? Let's listen to what Senator Corker said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAIRMAN: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. That moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens. There's no question about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, David Gergen, the first statement there was from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee who seemed to suggest the president lacks stability or as much stability as he would led to see right now. You called the president's comments dangerous. And that's what Mitt Romney seems to be saying this morning, threatening the unraveling of our national fabric.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do think increasingly, this whole episode as well as the president's defiance of the moral opinions of so many other Americans threatens his presidency. I think it's a danger to his presidency. He's in crisis now.
But beyond that, there's a little danger to the country when a younger generation hears a president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, essentially embrace racist neo-Nazis. He's provided them cover. They are rejoicing as Mitt Romney says. And now the president is increasingly isolated. The heavy weights in the Republican Party are breaking away from him. CEOs are breaking away from him.
[10:10:00] Our top military generals and admirals are breaking away from him. You have, across the board, John, rejection of what he stands for and he has a lot of governing to do. This is very unfortunate for our country.
And I do think that Senator Corker has raised an important issue. Carl Bernstein and I have been talking about this here on CNN. And that is whether the president has the emotional and mental stability that's needed to do this job because that's pretty fundamental. BERMAN: It is one thing, not that I - I respect you in the fullest, David Gergen. It is one thing to hear it from you. It is another thing to hear it from a Republican senator, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee right now. It's remarkable to hear from Bob Corker out loud like that.
And Douglas Brinkley, to you, the other person we heard from in that clip was Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who was talking about the moral authority of the president of the United States. And you have written about many presidents. You know that moral authority is one of the most powerful tools, if not the most powerful tool that they have.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. Moral authority and character matter mightily. Donald Trump has come up beyond short. I mean, in many ways, he's uniting the country right now in some ways and disliking, disdaining of him. Mitt Romney just being the newest voice but the American Cancer Group in Cleveland Clinic have just cancelled doing little summit in Mar-a-Lago. They're starting to be kind of boycotting that the Trump's presidency. Nobody wants to be associated with his post-Charlottesville remarks unless you're on a real right wing friend, John, or have some kind of strange neo Confederate heritage fantasies.
And most disturbing to me as a history professor, I teach at Rice University, is his conspiracy theories about history. There's one after another coming out, the fact that General Black Jack purging and bullets dipped in blood -- this was the president of the United States' response to a terrorist attack in Spain? Give me a break. I mean, we are really -- have a crisis of confidence in the White House.
BERMAN: Errol, there's been a lot of criticism of the president on many fronts. Steve Bannon though, says that he likes this discussion. He likes this debate. As far as Steve Bannon is concerned, he wants Democrats to stay on identity politics. He writes the Democrats, "The longer they talk about identity politics, I got them. I want them to talk about racism every day." You do say there's a political risk here.
LOUIS: I don't think there's a political risk unless people refuse to believe what they are being told. This person has the title of chief strategist. This is a person that talks to the president of the United States every day. This is somebody who has said, in an unsolicited phone call, he called and sort of speaking off-the-cuff -- explained exactly what he is doing and why he's doing it. And that coincided very importantly, John, with the president sort of shifting his position.
The president realizing that you know, supporting Nazi's, yelling outside of a synagogue is something even his -- followers are not going to swallow. So they sort of go to this kind of Confederate fantasy as the professor put it where they're sort of talking about statues and so forth. But Steve Bannon tells you the truth. He says he wants to talk about the economy and let the Democrats and let the left, as he puts it, talk about race, only because it's a difficult subject, as we know. It's an emotional subject. It's one that can lead people to sort of really just reject the message and the messenger. And he's banking on, in a very cynical way, he's banking on reaping political advantage from that.
BERMAN: I think what I am being told right now is that Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, is talking about race in America. Let's listen.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: In his second inaugural address in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called on Americans to bind up the nation's wounds. What Lincoln knew, and that we are sadly reminded today, that painful racial tensions are part of our experience as a nation. We too today should seek to bind up the wounds. We must pursue reconciliation, understanding and respect regardless of skin color, ethnicity or religious, or political views.
One of America's defining characteristics is the promise of opportunity for advancement regardless of your skin color, how much money your parents make or where you came from. It's why millions of Americans, millions of people have risked their lives and their fortunes to protect this country, to come to this country because they know that America promises a chance to fulfill your aspirations no matter your background. You will succeed based upon your efforts.
As my good friend Condi Rice has said, the essence of America is that which really unites us. It is not ethnicity or nationality or religion. It is an idea that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. It doesn't matter where you came from, but where you are going.
[10:15:06] As the army of the U.S. government representing America around the world, the U.S. State Department should be a clear display of America's values and our people, not just in our mission, but in the composition of our work force. We have a great diversity gap in the State Department. We need a State Department that reflects the American people, reflects who we are. The State Department must redouble our efforts to increase diversity at the highest ranks of the department, including at the ambassador level.
Only about 12 percent of our senior Foreign Service officers are nonwhite. That number is about the same for our senior executive service. To better understand our talent, we will have directed the relevant committees to adopt a new procedure. Every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate.
Now, they may not be ready, but we will know where the talent pool is. A big part of developing our minority leadership is identifying qualified individuals five and ten years before they are ready to become senior leaders and managing and developing their careers as we do others, so that they are undergoing preparations for those senior roles over time. We need a more deliberate process to cultivate the abundance of minority talent we already have in the State Department. All of this is a leadership issue.
It's the role of leadership from the Secretary of State to the assistant secretaries and directors of bureaus and everyone in between. We have to own this process. We have to manage this process and be held accountable for the results of this process. We are also going to re-examine and expand where we recruit from. As some of you know, better than most, America's best and brightest are not just from the Ivy League, but they're from a lot of other places in the country.
Laredo, Texas. Detroit, Michigan. Radford, Virginia. Their kids sitting on the front row of their high school classes. They're veterans from our military, who are coming out of service, looking for the next part of their career and many of them with a strong desire to continue to serve their country. And they are so gifted in many ways from many walks of life.
So, we are going to build our recruiting team operations out in places that we haven't concentrated before. That doesn't mean coming through town once a year and dropping some pamphlets off at the recruiting office. We are going to build and develop relationships with institutions around the country so that people can more easily find us and more importantly, we can find them, not just rely upon people seeking us out. Qualified Americans of all backgrounds should know a State Department career at stake is possible. And we need to work harder to find those individuals.
25 percent of our civil services are African-American. Only 9 percent of our Foreign Service specialists and 5 percent of our Foreign Service generalist are African-American. While our diplomats and residents at Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, in Florida do an outstanding job ensuring that people understand the opportunities at the State Department. There are more than 100 historically white colleges and universities and there are so much more we can do to raise awareness about the range of careers at State.
BERMAN: We are listening to Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, giving a speech in Washington, two very significant pieces of news here. First of all, the Secretary of State just announced that one American is among the dead in the Barcelona terror attacks. One American killed. That is important because it means that U.S. Investigative Services will now be much more directly involved in theory in the investigation itself.
The other piece of significant news here is that the U.S. Secretary of State shows today to make a sweeping statement against racism, standing up to bigotry including, he said, for some big moves within the State Department involving recruitment and diversifying. He is looking for a much more diverse State Department. And he said, among other things is that all of this is a leadership issue.
And if I can, I want to give one question to David Gergen, if he's still with us right now. David Gergen, it's hard for me to read this statement from the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson today as anything other than a response to how the president has responded to the Charlottesville violence, the Secretary of State with a much more sober response, to be sure.
[10:20:00] GERGEN: John, you are absolutely right. This is clearly a response to the president and what we have been going through. I think it was not intended as an explicit, obviously, criticism of the president had a more implicit message. But I think it was intended as a healing message that a grown up within the administration was reaching out and saying, you know, we have a heart, we want to do the right thing. We have the right values. And I applaud the secretary for speaking out, what he did. I think the sentiments about diversity are right.
I do think, John, that some would say, wait a minute Mr. Secretary, you've got a department you are slashing by 25 percent. You are getting ready to fire a lot of people. United States has seen an increasingly unstable, unpredictable place led by an impulsive leader. Don't you really have to address those issues as well in order to make a convincing case that you are going to be on the cutting edge of diplomacy and bringing peace on earth if you're going into the State Department?
BERMAN: An interesting message nonetheless from the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. I want to thank David Gergen, Douglas Brinkley and Errol Louis for being with us. Appreciate it.
And as we just said, the Secretary of State did confirm that one American is among those killed in the Barcelona terror attacks. What that means? All the new developments, next.
[10:25:40] BERMAN: All right. We have breaking news in the deadly terror attacks in Spain. Just moments ago, the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson confirmed that one American was killed in these attacks.
CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now live from Barcelona with the very latest. That is one among the 14 that we know about so far. Melissa?
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And as you were saying, crucially just a short while ago, that will mean that American investigators get involved and what's an ongoing investigation and an extremely complex one. There are so many pieces of this puzzle.
Here's what we know so far. Spanish authorities, John, have four people in custody. They have arrested four people. They include three Moroccans and one Spaniard from Melilla which is a Spanish sanctum between Morocco and Spain. They also believe, even as they question these men that the three separate incidents that we saw on Wednesday and then on Thursday were, in fact, linked.
So, just to walk you through them, Wednesday night an explosion at a house in a town outside of Barcelona. That is now believed by police to be absolutely crucial to this investigation. What they think is this house was a house in which explosives were being prepared, may have been set off by accident even as terrorists began to plan one or several attacks.
Then of course the dreadful attack here on Las Ramblas in Barcelona on Thursday night at 5:00 p.m., in which 13 people were killed. And then, just hours later, of course, that second terrorist attack in Cambrils. All five attackers killed there. It is believed now that the explosive belts they were carrying were faked and that they rammed their car into a crowd of pedestrians.
So, very much a picture of linked attacks that is emerging, very little in the way of much information about the identities of those who may have been involved. And in particular, John, the crucial question about whether or not the man who drove his van down the street here in Barcelona on Thursday night has in fact been captured - or killed. What the police say is that they don't know whether he's still on the run or may in fact have been in the group of terrorists that were involved in that second attack in Cambrils last night.
BERMAN: That would be so important for them to discern as quickly as possible.
Melissa Bell, thank you so much.
Here to discuss, Bob Baer, CNN intelligence and security analyst, former CIA operative and Mike Baker, former CIA operative and co- founder of Diligence, LLC.
Mike, first to you, again, one American killed, that is the breaking news today. How will that shape the U.S. involvement in this investigation?
MIKE BAKER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, the U.S. Services always offer their assistance for, you know, post attack reviews and investigations. So, that's going to continue. Obviously, you know, there's more of a personal issue here now that there's a U.S. citizen involved.
But, you know, typically, the EU countries, you know, they rely heavily on the CIA, the NSA, FBI assistance. Look, they are stretched thin just as the FBI is stretched thin here in the U.S. carrying out investigations into potential issues and suspects. So they are very keen, typically, to accept assistance from the U.S.
BERMAN: The victims now from all over the world. It does show the nature of who this attack was directed at, which in some ways, the entire civilized world, Bob Baer. We are learning more about the size of this terror operation, right? There were two attacks, 75 miles apart. There was a house where there was an explosion the night before, 10 maybe 12 suspected terrorists involved, many of them now dead. What does the size tell you, Bob?
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, when the reports first came out, you know, one driver, one van, it sounded like it was a lone wolf. But now this other attack. Of course, it was much larger attack. No doubt they are connected.
And I think they are intended to use explosives. There was an explosion on Wednesday night, it knocked down a house. One person was killed as the initial reports say. So they were probably tending to multiple attacks, but they just didn't have the experience to carry this off. And I think once the plan fell apart, it seems, that they started doing, you know, just striking out where they could. And the whole plan fell apart.
What worries me is that Spain was expecting an attack for months now. They didn't detect these guys. And they have the best police equipment. They have got algorithms. They check social media and the rest of it. And still, these groups continue to operate in so many at once. So I think it's rather disturbing.